Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Happiness is ...

... seeing these little guys breakfasting just outside my kitchen window: a charm  of goldfinches enjoying a niger seed banquet.

Even though the London weather is grey and dismal they've brought a little sunshine into my morning.

Hope you're finding inspiration in whatever you're doing today.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Happiness is ...

... when you finally understand how your pattern works without having to squint at the chart ... .

Today I'm working on some Aran. It's been a while since I've knit Aran, and I'm enjoying how the whole thing ties together. It feels very organic in its construction. I prefer not to use traditional Aran weight wool. It's just too bulky for comfort. I can understand how marvellous it must have been for the fishermen and the farmers working the land on the Aran Islands with the Atlantic winds buffeting them 360 days a year, but for us urbanites with our central heating and feather-down winter coats they're a bit too heavy. I prefer to use double knitting yarn. It takes more stitches and rows and, hence, more work, but the end result just seems to work better.

I may also be historically more accurate in that preference than if I were using the Aran wool that's marketed for Aran knitting. For centuries the people on the islands have been knitting the Geansaí Árann, a gansey jumper with many of the cables and diamond patterns used in modern Aran knitting, but they used different construction methods and a finer wool. Aran knitting, as we know it today, was largely the creation of an entrepreneurial group of island women who set about knitting jumpers for sale to supplement their family income in the late nineteenth/ early twentieth century. Now as we all know knitting a jumper, especially an Aran one with all its intricacy of design, is a time-consuming business. And, if you're treating your jumpers as commodities for sale, time is clearly money. So they hit upon the brilliant wheeze of simplifying the construction techniques and using a much thicker wool that would knit up quickly, enabling them to produce more jumpers and up their earnings in the process. Thus the modern Aran jumper was born in a flourish of female innovation.

And I've been innovating a teeny bit myself. How do you like my sparkly Aran? It looks better in person, but this wool is really difficult to capture. Maybe it's something to do with the light, courtesy of our miserable grey London weather. No wonder I'm reaching for a dash of sparkle ... .

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Greece v Rome ... intelligence squared

On Thursday night Mr B and I went with some friends to a debate, Greece v Rome,  organised by Intelligence² at Central Hall Westminster. In the Greek corner, we had London Mayor, Boris Johnson, arguing the case for the world's first democracy, the satire-loving Greeks, and in the Roman corner we had the formidable Prof. Mary Beard. The billing for the event boasted that, had Mary been in charge, the Roman Empire would still be going strong! And that wasn't hyperbole. For all of Bojo's considerable eloquence and charisma, she wiped the floor with him.

Going into the debate 30% of us (self included) had no clear view, 38% favoured Greece and 32% were in the Roman camp. After Mary had finished her argument, the vote went in favour of Rome as she romped home with a 56% majority. She argued about the enduring legacy of the Romans, how they had built the first super-city in which their architecture was only eclipsed by feats of engineering made possible by the industrial revolution in the 19th century, and about how they had been inclusive extending citizenship to everyone, regardless of their country of origin or how humble their status, to create an upwardly mobile, multi-cultural society.

It was a good-natured exchange that threw up lots of interesting insights into the classical world and both speakers made us laugh. Intelligence² have an amazing programme of debates over the coming months. Videos of many of their past events can be viewed for free on their website: Intelligence Squared. The only thing to bear in mind, if you'd like to go along, is that tickets sell out quickly. So, if you see something that tickles your imagination, book it straight away.

All the best for now,

Bonny x

Friday, 20 November 2015

A charm of goldfinches ...

Did you know that a gang of goldfinches are known as a charm? No, me neither, but I'm going to use it at every opportunity. It's just too charming not to ... .

I've got a few of these little chaps who come to feast on niger seeds just outside my kitchen window. And I'd hate to add up all the time in my day that gets lost admiring them. In the bad old days these little guys were under threat from the caged bird trade, but one of the RSPB's first campaigns, Save the Goldfinch, happily turned the tide, and now they're growing in numbers again.

All the best for the weekend,

Bonny x

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Handknit Christmas Tree Angel ...

Coming up to Christmas the world divides into two camps. There's the angel camp and the star camp. And me? I'm firmly with the angels. I wouldn't dream of putting a star on top of my Christmas tree.

No siree; it's an angel for me!

But here's the thing: when I trotted off to the shops for a tree-topper the only angels on offer were the plastic-fantastic variety that were all decked out in frills and cheap lace and frou-frou. And I'm even less into frills and cheap lace and frou-frou than I am into stars on the top of my Chrimbo tree. So I've knit myself an angel. She's comfortably padded, smiles angelically and wears woollen evergreen underpants: totally my kinda' winged wonder. What do you think?

I've knit her from worsted weight yarn (Sublime Extra Fine Merino Worsted) and she's really not difficult to make. Just read on for the pattern: